After hours of public testimony, the Madison College District Board voted unanimously tonight to pursue a long-term lease of its downtown campus and expand its presence on the South Side, opening the door to leaving downtown entirely to focus on underserved populations.

The 9-0 vote approved a motion to pursue a minimum 50-year lease, to begin July 1, 2018, of the land where the Downtown Education Center sits on North Carroll Street. Additionally, the vote authorizes the College to expand the current Villager Mall location on South Park Street and extend the lease for two more years while pursuing a permanent standalone campus on the south side.

In remarks supporting the proposal before the vote, board member and Madison Alder Shiva Bidar-Sielaff said, “As a city who keeps talking about racial equity, it is important to make sure actions follow words. A comprehensive south side campus is needed. It is an investment in our future, in a Madison where equity is not just a word thrown around but where we take intentional action to invest in our communities of color, in those who have for too long been marginalized. I applaud (Madison College President) Dr. (Jack E.) Daniels for taking the bold step of moving forward the real possibility of a comprehensive south campus with his current proposal. ”

“The board made a huge statement in affirming the commitment to serving the underserved through their actions,” said Daniels after the vote. “This is a strong message that Madison College will be a major player in addressing underserved populations leading to enhanced quality of life in their communities. It is also the forward thinking of the board aligned with the Madison College mission and vision that will set our future pathways.”

“The college has served well, for 100 years, the majority population,” Daniels said last month. “However, the population of people of color and other underrepresented populations do not take full advantage of Madison College, nor have we made a consistent effort to meet their needs.”

While many city and business leaders opposed the move, many leaders in communities of color are lauding the decision.

“I am thrilled to see that Madison College made a unanimous decision to move one of their campuses to South Madison,” said Boys and Girls Club of Dane County CEO Michael Johnson. “Having a major education institution embedded on the South Side will spark additional economic development and access to those who will need it the most. Kudos to Dr. Daniels, his team and Board of Directors for making the right decision.”

“The Madison College board unanimously demonstrated the courage to look forward on behalf of our city tonight,” said Madison Alder Maurice Cheeks. “This is a moment to remember. I hope that others take away from this a confidence that new voices will be heard in our city, as well as a confidence that our best days are indeed ahead of us- and not behind us.”

The Board deadlocked on a similar proposal a year ago.

We will update this story with more reactions from stakeholders.